15 Grueling Challenges Small Businesses Are Facing Right Now

It's no secret that small businesses are the backbone of the American economy. But what happens when those businesses struggle?
Updated May 3, 2024
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You may feel a little uneasy lately if you're a small-business owner. Every day, there's another article about how the economy is in trouble. Many Americans are taking steps to prepare for a coming recession, and that's bad news for small businesses. Despite these challenges, Intuit predicted a whopping 17 million new small businesses would open in 2022. That’s a lot of people wanting to learn how to start a business.

But what if you do start a business? And what are the most alarming signs that small businesses are in trouble? Here are the storms that they face and some tips on how to sail through them.

The increasing cost of goods, services, employees

wifesun/Adobe african man with a paper bag of groceries looks upset at a receipt from a supermarket

The first sign that small businesses are in trouble is an increase in the cost of goods and services. This factor is a significant concern for small-business owners, as it may eat into their profits.

There are a few ways to combat this, however. One is to increase efficiency and cut costs. Another is to raise prices, but this may be a tricky balancing act. You don't want to price yourself out of the market, but you also don't want to lose money on each sale.

Supply chain issues

WavebreakmediaMicro/Adobe Businessman shaking hands with colleague

Another sign that small businesses are in trouble is supply chain issues. This factor may be a significant problem, as it may disrupt the flow of goods and services. It may cause production delays, which may lead to lost sales and customers.

One way to manage this may be to have a good relationship with your suppliers. Another is to have a sound inventory management system in place.

Competition from gigantic companies

VladFotoMag/Adobe skyscrapers bottom up view

Companies like Amazon and Walmart have deep pockets and may undercut small businesses on price. They may also offer a more comprehensive selection of products and services. This may be a significant problem for small businesses, as it may put them out of business.

To combat this, focus on niche products and services. Another way to fight the giants is to offer a better customer experience.

Difficulty finding employees

Heidi/Adobe Sign in restaurant window during time of Covid stating restaurant is understaffed

The fourth sign small businesses are in trouble is difficulty finding employees. This may be a significant problem, leading to delays in production and customer service issues. Since the pandemic, hiring has been a headache for all types of businesses.

For small-business owners to attract employees, they may need to offer competitive salaries and benefits. Another way to make your business attractive is to provide training, development, and career advancement opportunities.

Difficulty keeping employees

snowing12/Adobe Hand of a businessman hands over a resignation letter

The fifth sign that small businesses are in trouble is difficulty keeping employees. Employee turnover may lead to low productivity and a poor customer service experience for current customers.

Retaining employees is not unique to small businesses, but having to hire and train can be more costly. Small businesses should create a positive work environment, offer competitive salaries and benefits, and discuss career potential with employees.

COVID-19 safety protocols

Krakenimages.com/Adobe woman wearing coronavirus safety mask at a gift shop

The increased cost of COVID-19 safety protocols for businesses was certainly a problem when the pandemic hit in 2020. And keeping up with changing rules may put a strain on already tight budgets.

There are a few ways to approach this, however. One is to apply for government grants and loans. Another is to increase prices.

Increasing interest rates

jackfrog/Adobe Beautiful young woman shopping in a bulk food store

Increasing interest rates may be a significant problem, as it may increase the cost of small business loans. One way to combat this issue is to shop around for the best rates.

Funding the business

Kittiphan/Adobe Stressed young woman checking bills

The most important thing for small businesses is to have a plan for funding the business. This can be a significant problem, as it may be challenging to get loans from banks. One way to combat this issue is to look into government grants and loans. Another way is to look for private investors.

Employee morale

Yingyaipumi/Adobe Business Event training seminar

Poor employee morale may lead to low productivity and high turnover. To combat this, small businesses should create a positive work environment, a flexible work environment, and offer competitive salaries and benefits.

Constant problems

Krakenimages.com/Adobe business workers working together

If you're constantly putting out fires, it's a sign that your business is in trouble. Several operational problems — poor planning, inadequate resources, and ineffective management — may cause this.

To combat this issue, small businesses should focus on creating a plan and sticking to it. They should also make sure they have the resources to execute their plan. Finally, they should ensure an effective management team is in place.

Lack of passion for the business

master1305/Adobe bar closed due to COVID-19

If you're not passionate about your business, it will likely fail. This situation occurs because passion usually drives people to succeed. Without it, companies will likely struggle.

To combat this issue, small businesses should make sure they have a clear mission and vision for the business. If business owners lose their passion, they should either try to rekindle that passion or consider selling the business.

Inability to adapt

weedezign/Adobe  hand of woman order grocery online store with tablet

If your business cannot adapt, it may likely fail. With changes in the world economy, new technology, more nimble competitors, companies need to change. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, many brick-and-mortar businesses successfully pivoted to an online business model.

Small businesses should focus on being agile and adaptable. Understanding their market is key to anticipating changes. They should also have a plan for when things go wrong.

Lack of positive PR

elnariz/Adobe angry man doing his taxes

If people aren't talking about your business, it's a sign that something is wrong. Several things, such as poor marketing, lousy customer service, or a lack of innovation, may cause this situation.

Small businesses should focus on creating a buzz around their business. They may do this by hosting events, offering discounts, or partnering with other companies. If you have a consumer-facing business, managing a positive social media presence may also help it thrive.

Unable to pay bills on time

Kittiphan/Adobe calculating credit card expenses at home

If your business cannot pay its bills on time, it's the flashing neon sign that it's in trouble. Poor cash flow management or unexpected expenses may affect your ability to pay bills one month, but if it’s ongoing, the business may fail.

Small businesses should focus on creating and implementing a specific budget. Having a backup plan, such as using a small business credit card to tide your business over until income improves, may also help.

Lack of innovation

REDPIXEL/Adobe Young creative business people meeting at office

If your business is not innovating, it may likely fail. Competitors may swoop in to take your clients if they see that you’re not changing.

Small companies should develop new products or services, implement new technologies, or develop new marketing strategies to stay ahead of the competition.

Bottom line

luckybusiness/Adobe Business owner holding Open Sign

If you're seeing any of these signs in your small business, it's crucial to take action. Ignoring the problem may only make it worse. Focus on fixing the issues so you may get your business back on track and boost the money in your bank account.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 70% of small businesses may fail by their tenth year of operation. This statistic is an alarmingly high number, and small business owners need to be aware of the signs that their business is in trouble.

By taking action and addressing these issues, they may increase their chances of success.

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Author Details

Larisa Redins Larisa Redins is a highly experienced professional writer and editor. With experience writing on diverse topics, such as eco investments, real estate, cryptocurrency, side hustles, and budgeting, she loves to learn and share her knowledge with readers.

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